In keeping with my promise to concentrate more on half marathons rather than fulls, I had signed up for the Divas half marathon in St. Augustine Beach that took place this past Sunday. I thought the weather should be fine – after all, a Florida beach in December should be more appealing than any location farther north. I hadn’t counted on strong winds and drizzly rain though. In fact, it rained hard all day on Saturday and we dodged raindrops when we stopped at the local elementary school for packet pickup.
In keeping with the Divas theme, packet pickup was labeled a ‘boutique’ though it was really just a room (the school gymnasium) chock full of vendors selling shoes, gels, and running clothes. I received a bright pink bag with my bright pink bib, bright pink tutu, and bright pink short-sleeve tech shirt. The color of the day: bright pink!
When I registered for the race last spring, the host hotels were not listed on the website. By the time I checked back in the fall, all the host hotels were booked. That meant we had to stay out closer to the interstate, which turned out to be an advantage in a way since we were only staying the one night prior to the race. The Fairfield Inn at I-95 gave us a late checkout time of 1 pm, so after the race we could head straight back to the hotel, I could shower, and we could grab some chocolate milk and eats at the nearby McDonald’s and then make our way back home.
But I am getting ahead of myself. After we picked up my bib and tutu, we checked into the hotel and had an early dinner at Crackerbarrel. I prepared for the race in my usual way, pinning the bib onto my vest and pulling out all my planned race clothes and shoes. Weather predictions were now calling for a slight chance of showers and some wind but otherwise fine. My usual pre-race nervousness did not show itself, probably because this was ‘just’ a half. I knew I would be surrounded by many other runners and walkers and was fairly sure that a number of them would probably be first-timers.
The website made it crystal clear that there was to be no parking at the race start and finish so, unless runners were staying at a hotel right on the beach, it was necessary to take a shuttle from one of two locations, both several miles away. The first bus was to leave at 5 am and the last at 6:45 am. This was for a 7:15 am start for the 5k and a 7:30 am start for the half. Five o’clock seemed kind of early for a 7:30 start but I figured it was better to be there earlier than late, so Darcy dropped me off on Sunday morning at 4:39 am. Then he returned to the hotel and back to bed. I climbed on the first bus, sat down, and waited. Five o’clock came and went and I was still the only person on the bus. Other buses lined up behind my bus but no other racers appeared. Half an hour later I was still the only person on the bus. I began to wonder if everyone else either overslept or decided to leave from the other shuttle location. Finally, around 5:40, a couple of other people arrived. Our bus left at 6 am, but our driver got her directions confused and had to call for help on her cell phone. We arrived at the starting line by 6:30, still with an hour to go before race time. At least it was warm on the bus. Once we decamped I could feel a nasty breeze and some whispers of rain begin to fall so, after visiting the portapotty, I made my way to a covered bus stop. I was joined by a lot of others, especially when the drizzle became a downpour. The rain didn’t last long, thank goodness, and the weather cleared up for most of the race. There was a cool breeze which helped ease the high humidity and temperatures remained in the 60’s.
Lots of people wore their tutus (I refrained) and the atmosphere was alive with laughter and a sense of fun. Several people mentioned that this was their 2nd or 3rd Diva half marathon and all were a little different but still enjoyable. There was definitely a relaxed vibe throughout the entire event. When it was time to line up in one of the two ‘corrals’ (these were not monitored or clearly defined), many took their time to enter. I could never hear any of the announcements so I was not sure exactly when either race began. After the 5k runners took off, I made for the start line and estimated where I should be pace-wise. A friend who had done this race last year suggested that I start closer to the front of my corral (I was in the 2nd wave) to avoid the more leisurely walkers and that was a good idea. However, I also noticed that many of the people in my corral were supposed to be in the one ahead of mine. This didn’t seem to bother anyone. In fact, the race was probably the most relaxed laid-back event I have ever been in and that made it unusual but also enjoyable.
The course was well-marked and took us through neighborhoods, beaches, parks, and by the St. Augustine lighthouse. The streets were in great condition. This was to be expected, I guess, in temperate Florida but it was enjoyable to not have to worry about tripping. So many of the races I’ve done outside the South had streets with dangerous cracks and potholes. One long stretch of road had a definite camber to it and since it was an out-and-back, we experienced it twice. However, with care it was possible to stay in the center of the road to avoid the slant.
Just past mile 12, there was a boa and tiara station. Volunteers handed us very pink boas and silver tiaras with pink jewels in them. I crossed the finish line in just under 3 hours, was handed a medal by a good-looking young man, swigged a glass of champagne, and called Darcy who was had just arrived at the pier via shuttle bus. We met up at the finish line and made our way back to the hotel.
My take on this race: it is a fun and relaxed half marathon. There were lots of mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends, and all seemed bent on having a good time. I doubt if I would do it again, at least here in St. Augustine, though I might consider another Diva race in another location. I am not really into pink but my granddaughter is, so I happily gave her the boa, medal, bag, and tutu. I thought perhaps that someday I might even convince her to do one of these races with me.